Measuring up to Manhattan – 2

10 Dec

4 hours later I was up, had a quick shower (if that were ever possible!) and jumped on to my bike for the second stage of our bike trip around Manhattan. Sure I felt a little ‘drained’ from the night before and I was completely sleep deprived but other than that there wasn’t even a hint of alcohol in my system! On any other day, the ill effects would surely have told on me.

I met John at 10 after cycling over the Queensboro Bridge and all the way across to the West Side bike path on 57th street – effortlessly beating cross town traffic on the way and doing all of this in less than 20 minutes.

We would continue north along the Hudson River and hope to make it to 178th street where the George Washington Bridge stands tall.

The views from the Marina at Riverside Park on the Upper West Side are delightful with the GW Bridge providing a majestic back drop to the scene. Blame it on the magic of a zoom lens if you will but the bridge is a lot further than it seems at this point – a good 7 miles away!

New York under Mayor Bloomberg has endeavored over the last few years to promote itself as a bike friendly city. Organised bike events, dedicated green ways and trails, bike lanes on city roads, distribution of free helmets and a detailed 5 borough bike map are some of their efforts in this direction. Even so, NYC still probably pales in comparison to some of the more bike friendly European cities and even some in the US. However a few years of hard work by the city administration has, today, resulted in over 40 miles of bike routes across all boroughs – an impressive feat for sure.

Possibly the longest uninterrupted bike path would be on the west side of Manhattan along the Hudson River. For most part, this trail runs alongside the Hudson providing great vistas of the river and adjoining areas in Jersey. There are times, however, when the path veers more inland.

Interestingly, this beautiful promenade was built over Amtrak’s Hudson Line right of way and is yet another example of efficient urban space utilisation.

Soon enough we were back near the river and this time almost at level with it. This is easily one of the most scenic and relaxing stretches to bike on. The Henry Hudson Parkway runs parallel to the trail here and is hidden (thankfully!) by trees in most parts. The hilly and built up parts you see to the left of pic are the Jersey townships of Weehawken, Edgewater, West New York & Fort Lee.

At 125th street, there is a small detour onto city roads and despite the inconvenience it all seemed quite worth while. I had heard a lot about Riverside Drive – possibly even passed by it once – but to see the stretch that runs from 125th street into Harlem over an old viaduct was a delight. Not just bridges, but elevated structures for transportation have started to fascinate me as well – especially those built well before my time and in New York there are plenty. This was probably one of the finest examples I had seen.

As we biked past the car park of the famous Fairway Market, out of nowhere emerged at least 20 Mini Coopers. They may have been taking part in a rally or something but whatever the reason, the sight was impressive enough to stop us in our tracks!

Back on the bike trail and the river was still out of sight. Instead the trail passes through a heavily wooded area and for a few moments it’s quite easy to forget that you’re still in Manhattan.

The Hudson showed up soon enough and it was a warming sight to see that we were now within earshot of the GW Bridge.

But rail fans will always be rail fans. The GW Bridge, we thought, could wait! Having done our research, we knew that the Amtrak line that we were riding over some time back would eventually emerge from its long tunnel. We timed our trip around the passing of 2 trains and managed to find a perfect spot just off the trail to snap up both.

‘Open House New York‘ is an annual summer weekend event where hundreds of city attractions across all boroughs are thrown open to the public for free. These include sites which are otherwise restricted and made accessible to the public only over this weekend. The Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse which sits under the mighty GW Bridge is one such attraction.

Made famous by the old children’s book ‘The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge‘ this structure has long outlived its use. It was in threat of being dismantled and done away with in the 50s but a strong public outcry at the time ensured that the city would keep it there forever. It now finds mention in the US National Register of Historic Places.

Looking south from the light house afforded some wonderful views of the city and more than anything, provided us a sense of accomplishment.

It had become hot and sticky by then and the physical strain from the outing was beginning to tell on me. But on the ride back to 125th street, John spotted a Mexican lady selling mangoes South American style!

That was to be the only mango I would eat this whole year and by far the most refreshing thing I could have asked for on that day – not to mention a unique way of eating it!

After being tempted by several Dominican food carts that line the bike trail in their part of Harlem, we made it back to 125th street and stopped at the famous Dinosaur BBQ for some yum spare ribs and chilled beer (how could I resist?)! We managed to get the last tables outside as the rest were reserved for a motorcycle club or ‘bikers’ as they’re better known.

There was definitely something special going on that day – I don’t know if had anything to do with Columbus Day the following day or the fact that we had managed to luck out all over again! First it was those Minis, then these bikers and their fabulous machines and if that weren’t enough, about 5 vintage NYPD cars showed up and parked right in front of us!

Beautiful cars no doubt but I couldn’t help wonder how many gallons it would take them to do the 13 miles we had covered that day 😉

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